The Zach Mettenberger today is not the same quarterback that started under center for LSU in September.
Furthermore, the differences between Mettenberger then and now are like night and day.
At the beginning of the season, Mettenberger was inaccurate, unaware in the pocket and he held onto the ball too long. He was Jordan Jefferson 2.0. LSU fans quickly became discouraged with his lackluster performances.
Through the first four SEC games, Mettenberger threw for only 572 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. It wasn't until the Texas A&M game that LSU really started to loosen up the reins, and Mettenberger simply couldn't provide LSU with a consistent passing attack.
The talent was there. We all witnessed it during the spring game, and it's easy to see that when Mettenberger puts his mind to it, he can use that strong arm to hurt defenses. The progression just never came. It was a slow process, and it was yet another trying time to be a fan of LSU. Oh, the quarterback woes.
However, everything changed during the Alabama game. Mettenberger dropped back, made solid reads and delivered the ball on target to his receivers. It was an amazing sight to see, and he's been a weapon for LSU ever since.
In his last four SEC games, Mettenberger has thrown for 1,070 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. Big difference from his first four SEC games, ay?
And though Mettenberger still has his inconsistent moments (constantly overthrowing the deep ball), the improvements he's made have helped LSU become a better football team. Teams in the SEC better beware of the Tigers next season. Heck, every team in the nation better be for that matter.
If Mettenberger can work on his deep pass this offseason and develop better accuracy, the national championship is as good as LSU's.
With most of the offensive line coming back, the entire stable of backs returning (should Spencer Ware decide to return) and receivers such as Jarvis Landry, Kadron Boone and Odell Beckham occupying the outside positions, LSU's future is looking bright on offense.
But of course, none of this would matter if not for the return of Mettenberger. Finally, LSU fans have a quarterback to get excited about.
Alabama will lose most of its offensive line to the NFL, so the Tide won't be as dominant as they were this season. The only team that will have superiority over LSU should be Texas A&M with Johnny Manziel returning. But even the Aggies will likely lose junior tackles Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews to the draft after this season.
So really, 2013 could turn out to be the new 2012 for LSU. After all, 2012 was perceived to be the year LSU won it all because of the talent returning and Mettenberger stepping in as the starter.
It took him a little longer than expected to get the speed of the game down, but now that he has, who's to say he won't lead LSU to a national title in next season?
Will Zach Mettenberger lead LSU to a national championship in 2013?
Going into this season, most of us assumed Mettenberger would be playing like his predecessor. After a year of defying expectations, it's safe to assume Mettenberger will be one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC next season.
Who knows, when it's all said and done, Mettenberger might beat out Johnny Football for the Heisman next season. Hey, we've seen crazier things happen in this sport, right?
Winning a Heisman doesn't really matter though. What matters is holding that crystal ball in 2014, and with Mettenberger returning to the offense next season, LSU has what it takes to win it all.